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10 Mistakes HR Practitioners Make Designing and Managing Executive Coaching Activities (Part 2)

By Igshaan Soules

Executive coaching is one of the most valuable tools HR professionals can use for developing leaders. In part one of this two-part article series, I looked at several mistakes HR practitioners make when designing, deploying and managing executive coaching activities. The focus was more on the recruitment of executive or business coaches.

In this article, I want to explore how the value of executive coaching is diminished when coaching interventions are not well designed, managed or deployed. More specifically, I will explore the second five of the ten mistakes (pitfalls) HR professional should avoid to ensure it achieves their organisation’s leadership development objectives.

Mistake #6: Not Leveraging Assessments?

There is value in using assessments to help managers and leaders get a better understanding of their strengths and development areas. Assessments fall broadly in two categories – self-assessment (E.g. Baron EQ) and multi-rater assessments (e.g. 360-Degree Assessment) – and covers a wide variety of areas depending on the competencies you wish to measure.

Choosing the right assessment for your leader development objectives is important for laying a solid foundation for coaching activities. The results of assessments provide a solid footing from which a leader can engage a coach and great material for helping frame the development task and outcomes (s)he wants to achieve through the coaching engagement.

Most HR practitioners use assessments as a matter of routine during recruitment. However, many have yet to leverage the use of assessment for leader and leadership development purposes in coaching engagements.

Mistakes #7: Not being clear about the outcomes of coaching

What outcomes do you want to achieve with your leader development activities? What motivated you to choose executive coaching specifically to help you achieve those outcomes? When I ask HR practitioners these questions, many are not as clear as they ought to be and fewer are able to express why this leadership development activity will best achieve a specific development outcome.

Let me refer back to an earlier example. When the CFO of a financial services company asked me to help him be a better presenter (to the Board of Directors), I was curious why this was important for him. We spent an hour talking about this and explored amongst others, what impact he wants to have through his presentations, what outcomes he want to achieve and most importantly, how he would like to feel at the end of each presentation.

This exploration alone helped him gain a deep understanding of the discomfort he experienced when doing a presentation. More importantly, the data gained through this exploration helped us define the focus of follow-on sessions where we worked amongst others on influence, the ability to command attention and his ability to change tactics midstream through a presentation when something was not working.

Mistake #8: Ignoring the Agenda of the Organisation

There is a well-preserved view by HR professionals (and many coaches for that matter) that coaching should be non-directive and focused on the individual executives’ agenda. While I agree in part that this approach is more supportive, it is unlikely to get corporate clients out of their comfort zones in a major way.

In a 21st-century business environment the challenges are significantly different.  The needs of the wider organization must take precedence over the particular wants of any specific executive to create greater performance and unlock deeper potential.

Thus, executive coaching must take a more systems oriented approach to achieve the desired results.

Mistake #9: Individual Development versus Organisational Leadership.

Regardless of industry and context, leading at the top requires that managers and leaders excel in new ways. The traditional approach to coaching has very much focused on individual leader skills and competencies without a clear understanding of how this contributes to building the collective leadership capability of the organisation.

While this is important, there is however another thread of conversation that is probably the most ignored aspect of leadership – the importance of leadership culture. By this I mean the collective actions of formal and informal leaders acting together to influence organizational success.

My sense is that HR professionals ignore the importance of facilitating agreement on the leadership culture that will eventually help tilt organisations towards transforming.

Coaching must take place within a context of a well defined leadership strategy that will not only make explicit how many leaders we need, of what kind, where and with what skills, but also details in what fashion they behave individually and collectively to achieve transformation.

Mistake #10: Not Evoking Transformation

I know my clients will get value from my coaching if I do nothing more than simply listen deeply and ask curious questions. For many, no one else is doing that for them. And, just the fact that they take the time out of their week or month to look intently at their life will result in more alignment with what they want.

And that’s not really enough.

The coach’s job is to call forth the greatest possibility for their client. Not doing so would be settling for the bare bones minimum. Our role is to help clients break through their self- defeating stories, envision what is soul inspiring for them in their world, and stay on track to create it.

In short, in today’s economy and world, coaching must evoke transformation. And, that experience must help leaders step into and embrace a rich, robust and fully expressed life in which they inspire, promote and celebrate their leadership. By not demanding this from coaches, HR professionals are literally leaving money on the table for their organisations.

Bottom line? To fully leverage executive coaching activities, HR practitioners must work to overcome 10 (ten) mistakes (or pitfalls) when designing, deploying and managing executive coaching activities in organisations.

To learn more about and explore strategies for doing so, contact Igshaan Soules on 083 633 0999.


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